In 1951 Vienna had an unfortunate Halloween tradition of throwing eggs on cars, soaping windows, and engaging in other seriously destructive pranks. Pranksters had not too long before persuaded a cow to climb the steps to the upstairs of the grade school and tethered her there. Adults unwittingly perpetuated the tradition by recounting the tales with great amusement.
Knowing that the high school might be a target of an expensive prank, I planned a little harmless prank of my own. I invited several men teachers to join me in a party in the furnace room where the lights could not be seen from the outside. We alternated as sentinels in the dark hall around the gym and awaited the appearance of the pranksters. Our wait was not in vain as a car load of students circled the building to be sure that the coast was clear On the second circle, the car stopped and the passengers got out while the driver went to park the car in a safe place. Well supplied with soap, the students started writing little messages and we jumped out of the dark hallway and pounced on them. We took them to the furnace room to meditate on their sins, but we did offer them refreshments.
When the driver of the car came back to join his conspirators, they were nowhere to be found. He tested the doors but could not make entry. From the outside lights, we could see him but he could not see us in the darkened interior of the building. and we watched in high amusement as he searched and searched.. Finally he got the car and circled the building several times, but his buddies had vanished into thin air. After about thirty minutes he gave up and drove away.
We treated our captives with the utmost courtesy, offered them food and drink, but made no mention of their fate to come. One timidly mentioned that he was supposed to be back home at the time. We took the kids home but never said a word to their parents about what had happened. Also, we let them sweat a little but never punished them in any way.
Next year at Halloween time, I called an assembly to negotiate a peace treaty with the students, I promised them an unusual party to make money for an end of the year school picnic as well as to provide more fun than simple minded vandalism. Under the terms of our treaty all students had to promise not to engage in any sort of vandalism.
We invited adults to the party but charged a small entry fee. Once they got in the building we had additional schemes to part them from some more of their money. We had a nice roulette wheel made by one of the shop students. Rev. Richardson solemnly checked out the wheel and declared that it was not a gambling device as it never seemed to stop on win. We had some displays of interest to parents and some mini programs to entertain them.
We were perhaps proudest of one scheme to capture some quarters and have some laughs in the process. A beautiful girl in a stunning costume enticed men with a sign reading, “Pretty Girl, Dirty Joke, Fifty cents, Men only” The men went into the science room to hear the dirty joke and came out laughing at the trick we pulled on them. The dirty joke was to sit in a chair wired to shock the chair occupant with a harmless but slightly unpleasant jolt.
A beautiful young matron who worked in the office of sheriff Orlan Cox came up and eyed the who procedure with some suspicion. When no one would tell her what was going on, she demanded to pay her quarter and hear the joke. One of the kids manning this activity was close kin to her (nephew, I think) and he upped the current to the chair without my knowledge. When she got into the char and the current was activated, she got a quite unpleasant but still harmless shock (we were using only a six volt transformer and a model T coil.) She leaped out of the chair and gave me a slap that was far worse than the shock, she was mad and there was no doubt about it, but the men looking on thought it was something extra for their quarter.
Her husband was a good friend and I sought him out to apologize, but I could hardly get him to quit laughing and listen to my serious apology, Finally, he calmed down and suggested that I write her a letter and try to be funny as she loved a good joke.
I wrote a serious letter of apology but I ended with a paragraph that got me into even more trouble. I agreed to take a picture of the injury site and present an enlargement to the board members to decide if the injury was serious enough to merit some kind of damage award. I made the mistake of sending the letter to her at the sheriff’s office where she worked, and she made the mistake of showing it to Orlan. He swiped the letter and made several copies of it which he generously distributed throughout the community.
I dreaded the next board meeting but only one member made any mention of the incident when he said, “If you have the picture, I would like to see it.”
We took in quite a sum of money for the end of the year picnic, but when the next Halloween came around, I thought it best to let the kids do their own thing.